The Farm in Mesa
I was 8- or 9-years old when we moved from Arrowville to Mesa, Arizona. I was not party to all of the negotiations and reasons for this move, but the ultimate purpose was that Dad would be working with Grandpa Wilkes (William Attless) on the farm. We moved into one of the “hired hand” houses on the farm which was a quarter of a mile down the road from the main house where Grandpa and Grandma lived. Every thing that happened on the farm happened where they lived. This is where all of the farm equipment was, the tools, the cattle, etc.
The farm was located 5 miles East of Mesa at the corner of what is now E. Southern Ave and S. Greenfield Rd. It consisted of about 120 acres of land on which there were some orange and grapefruit orchards as well as some open fields which were used for various kinds of crops. While we lived there I remember growing cotton and maze and hay. We also had several head of milk cows and the milk was sold to a creamery that used it to make cheese. In addition to this part of the farm which was owned by my Grandparents, we took care of several acres of orchards that were located a mile or two further to the east. These orchards belonged to a Mr. Lincoln who was an industrialist from Ohio who owned a company named Lincoln Electric that built the Lincoln Electric Welders. He typically spent part of the winter in Arizona. I have often wondered how Grandpa became associated with Mr. Lincoln, however, I am not familiar with that story.
Living in the “hired hand” house was an experience all its own. The house was a small frame structure with four rooms. There was running water in the house which means there was one pipe running into the house so we had cold water in the kitchen sink. There was no bathroom in the house. Toilet facilites where handled by an outhouse in the back yard. For bathing, we would heat up water on the kitchen stove and when it was hot it would poured into a large tub with some cold water to moderate the temperature and this was our bathing facility. Sometimes particularly in the summer, rather than heating water in the house, we would go down the road a couple of miles to one of the large pumps that was used to pump irrigation water for farms in the valley and get into the tank where the water was when it came out of the pump and before it ran into a ditch that carried it off to the fields. This was a real treat since it was something of a cross between swimming and bathing and fortunately the water coming from these pumps was warm rather than very cold even though it was coming directly from the ground.
My over-arching impression from the time that I spent there is that a farm is a place where there is never-ending work to be done. Work begins early in the morning with the milking and feeding of the cows and continues until dark and sometimes after if it was our turn to receive the irrigation water. I was young enough when we lived there so I was not expected to be present for the morning milking which began about 5 or 6am, but when I was not in school, I was expected to be present for other tasks that began around 7am. Depending on the time of year, these other tasks primarily revolved around planting, cultivating tending and harvesting crops as well as tending to the farm.
For example, between the trees in the orchards we raised hay which was used to feed the cows at those times when there was no pasture for them to graze. To harvest the hay, it first had to be mowed, then raked and hauled to the place it was stored until it was time to use it. Again, because I was young, I did not do any of the mowing. We used a team of horses to pull the mower and it was quite a job to pay attention to both the horses and mowing so it was usually my Dad that did the mowing. After the hay was mowed, it had to be raked up into piles so it could be picked up and taken to the storage location near the corrals where it could be fed to the livestock. Sometimes I would do some of the raking which was also done with a horse-drawn hay rake. Horses were an important power source on our farm. Several of our farm implements were horse-drawn. We also had a tractor which was a caterpillar type tractor, i.e. is ran on tracks like an army tank rather than wheels and the tractor was used mainly for plowing and tilling the ground to prepare it for planting.
If the hay was going to be used to feed our own livestock we did not bale it. This was considered an unnecessary expense so after the hay was raked, we would go out with a large flat-bed, horse-drawn wagon, called a hay rack, and haul it to the storage location. This was not one of those nice smooth riding, rubber tired wagons with springs that you see now days; rather it had steel wheels and no springs.
Hauling the hay was a two-person operation. One person, usually my Dad, would be on the ground to pick up the hay with a pitch-fork and throw it up onto the hay rack. The person on the hay rack, usually me, would use a pitch fork to place the hay on the wagon so that we could continue to load hay on the wagon until the load was so high that the person on the ground could no longer throw the hay high enough to get it on top of the wagon. With the wagon loaded we would then “head for the barn” to unload the hay on to an ever growing stack of hay that would be used to feed the cows during the winter time. Some of my main memories of this task were how hot it was, although it did not seem as warm when I was nine or ten as it does when we go to visit Arizona now. And, since we were hauling the hay out of an orchard there was seldom any breeze down between the trees to help cool you down. Also, at my age, it seem like it was an interminable distance from the beginning of the orchard to the end. I don’t remember how many loads it took to haul all of the hay out of the orchard, but it took several days to complete the task.
Sometimes, if we were going to sell the hay we would bale it and usually it would be raised in an open field, not in the orchard. This was so the baling machine could get to it. When hay is to be baled, it is raked in a different way. Rather than rake it into piles so it could be loaded onto a hay rack, it is raked into long rows in the field, called windrows, so the baler could go along and pick it up.
When we did baling I had a different task. The baling machines in those days would usually leave a small amount of hay on the ground as they went along. It was considered too wasteful at least on our farm to just leave perfectly good hay on the ground, so I was given the task of following the baler and picking up the hay that was left. I did this with a horse-drawn hay rake. I would follow after the baler as it moved along and after I had picked up a reasonable amount of hay I would take if over and dump it on an adjoining windrow so the baler could pick it up. Then I would return back behind the baler again and continue the process. As opposed to hauling loose hay for our own use, I remember this job as being enjoyable.
There were, of course, many other tasks that fell to me on the farm. Bringing in the cattle for milking, driving the tractor to cultivate the orchards, feeding calves at milking time and teaching them to drink milk from a pail, and the list goes on. Wherever there was something to be done, generally I was expected to be there. As I look back on these experiences, they all had in common that they were in the category of work and many of them seemed hard at the time, but at this later period in my life, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn how to work and I also consider it a blessing that I had to opportunity to learn it at the side of my Father and Grandfather, two blessings in my life that were not fully appreciated until later.
In addition to life on the farm there were some other significant events happening during this time. It was during this time that my mother began working outside the home, something she has not done during since before I was born. The first job I remember her having was in a store and service station at Apache Junction. Apache Junction is now on the edge of Mesa but in the early 1940’s it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it was about 10 miles east of where Mesa ended across the desert out to Apache Junction.
After working there for a short time she was able to find a teaching position at a small school outside of Mesa. She continued to pursue teaching as a career from this time until she reached retirement age in Oregon.
Also, during the time in Arizona the make-up of the family was beginning to change. Elaine had remained in California where she graduated from Pasadena City College and entered nurses training at Huntington Memorial Hospital also in Pasadena, CA. At 13 years older than me, it seemed like Elaine and I were at different enough stages in our lives that we did not have very many chances to be together. Bill had also remained in California where he was supposed to be attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. There he had entered a training program for Naval Officers, but the attraction of music was also beckoning to him and taking him away from classes more than he should have. The result of this was that the Navy sent him to Boot Camp at the Naval Training Center in San Diego where he began a stint of about 4-years of active duty in the Navy. Shirley Ann graduated from Mesa High School and decided to pursue additional education at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. She was home for holidays and summer vacation but more and more I was becoming the only sibling at home.
Probably the biggest world event that occurred during the time we were living on the farm in Mesa occurred on December 7, 1941, which was the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I have a very distinct memory of this event. Dad and I had gone down to take care of the morning chores at Grandpa and Grandma’s place. We had finished the chores and were standing out in the equipment yard for a few minutes when Grandpa came out of their house and announced that there had been an attack on Pearl Harbor. This was particularly worrisome for the grandparents because Joseph, their youngest boy had joined the army a few months before and had been shipped out to the Pacific, specifically to the Philippines and they were very concerned for his safety. Although the initial attack on Pearl Harbor did not endanger him personally, their concerns were well founded since it was not too long after the initial attack that the Japanese invaded the Philippines. During these hostilities, Joe was captured while stationed on Corregidor, an island located at the entrance to Manila Bay, where the United States forces made their last stand prior to the Japanese invasion. He was held as a prisoner of war in the Philippines for a time and later died when prisoners from the Philippines were being transferred to other prison camps closer to the island of Japan.
There was a great deal of learning for me during the Mesa period of my life. It was the first time that I had a chance to be “star” in the family, by that I mean that with Elaine, Bill and Shirley Ann away from home and in the process of starting their own adult lives, the focus at home was on me. Sometimes the focus was more than I wanted. I have to admit that at that stage of my life, I seldom really “looked forward” to hauling hay or doing other tasks on the farm, but in retrospect, the lessons learned there were invaluable. This was where I began learning to work because there is work that needs to be done.